Monday, July 25, 2011

Blueberry Crumble Pie

BB Pie-slice-3qtr

So you might have seen where Dwight and I picked pound after pound of blueberries and thought to yourself, "What the heck is she going to do with all of those berries?" Aside from shoving handful after delicious handful directly into my pie hole... I made pie. Twice. And then I shoved slice after delicious slice of pie into my pie hole. Mmmm...

BB pie - pouring BBs

Up until last year, I'd never had blueberry pie. The thought of it made me want to vomit. Quite literally. See, when I was about 9 or 10 years old, I got sick on a day when I'd had pancakes with blueberry syrup that morning. I don't recall if I liked them when they went down, but they were NOT good coming back up. *Urp*

BB Pie-pouring sauce

Since then, I'd been completely horrified by anything containing liquid-y blueberries or even eating fresh berries. I could eat blueberry muffins, or scones — something like that — but never, ever anything like pie, or even a blueberry-filled breakfast/granola bar or cookie. If the blueberries were not evenly distributed in individual form throughout a baked good, forget it. I was totally grossed out.

BB Pie-crumble topping

When Dwight insisted on making blueberry pie last year after our massive haul, I was sure that pie was going to be all his. But then he made me taste it. "Just TRY it. One bite." Fine. Oh my goodness. Much to my surprise, I thought it was amazing. And I didn't throw up. HOORAY! I became a blueberry pie convert and looked forward to making some with this year's berries.

BB Pie-ready to bake

The company I work for printed a cookbook for a local non-profit organization with recipes submitted by regular home cooks. Pretty much your typical church or school-type of community cookbook. I got to design the project, so I was able to see all of the recipes. A few caught my eye, but the one I just had to make was called "Blueberry Pudding Pie." Odd name, but it sounded good. This is a slight variation on that pie. What I love about this (aside from the fact that it's amazingly good) is that you don't use traditional pie crust. I'm a pie-crust-a-phobe. Many people are afraid of yeast (I have no such qualms) but ask me to make a pie crust and I'll break into a sweat. Which is why I buy these:

Yes, yes I do.

But this pie uses an oat-based loose crust that gets pressed into the bottom and sprinkled over the top. Let's check it out!

BB Pie-measure crust
BB Pie - crust

BB pie baked

Blueberry Crumble Pie
(a.k.a Blueberry Pudding Pie, but I like my name better)

3/4 cup butter (1-1/2 sticks), slightly softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 cups flour
1-1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup water

3-4 cups (or more) blueberries (*see notes)
1 tbsp lemon juice
zest of one lemon (or 1/2 tsp dried lemon peel**)

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Make sure all of the cornstarch is completely in blended into the sugar. It'll avoid the problem of having clumpy cornstarch. Whisk in cinnamon, then whisk in water. Heat over medium heat stirring constantly until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from heat and let cool while preparing the crust.

Combine all crust ingredients in large mixing bowl using a pastry blender or process in food processor. I used a food process, but mine is small, so I did half at a time.

Grease 9" pie plate. Put 2 cups of mixture in bottom of dish. Press evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the dish.

Fill prepared dish with blueberries.
*NOTE: If you plan on packing the top crust like I did, you can get away with more berries. If you plan on having a loose top, i.e. just crumble, not pack it in place, only use enough berries to fill plate to the top edge, no higher. The sauce will bubble out ALL over the edges. Trust me.

Drizzle lemon juice and zest over top of berries. **If you don't have fresh zest you can use Penzey's dried lemon peel like I did. But fresh is best.

Pour sauce over top of berries, evenly coating them, scraping pan to get all of the saucy goodness.

Put remaining crust mixture on top of coated berries. You can press it down like you see in the photos above or keep loose.

Line baking sheet with foil, place pie dish on lined pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until filling is bubbling steadily. If the top is getting browned too quickly, cover loosely with foil.

Cool pie completely on wire rack before serving. Store covered in the refrigerator.

BB Pie-remaining slices


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blueberry Picking 2011

BB-morning sun

As of today, Dwight and I have picked blueberries three times this season. The Blueberry Ranch opened Friday, July 8, a full week later than last year due to a cool, wet spring. We went first thing the following morning to beat both the heat and the crowds. My parents came with us.


First picking is always a treat. The first variety up for picking is Duke. Unlike some of the other varieties we've picked, these tend to ripen in full clumps, so you just grab handful after handful of berries.

BB-first pick

The same wet, cool spring that delayed picking also produced bigger, sweeter berries. We could tell the difference immediately. Picking has been a real treat. We picked Dukes first, missed the next two varieties because they were picked so quickly, then went last Thursday after work to pick Bluecrop.

BB-my haul-weighed
8lbs I picked on July 9

Oh my holy heck. The Bluecrops are incredible. I'm not one to eat fresh blueberries. I tend to like them in baked goods or frozen and eaten with yogurt or in smoothies. But these. Wow. So sweet. We picked about 14 pounds on Thursday and went back on Saturday morning to get more. Twenty pounds more, roughly. We've already eaten about half of those. Well, we gave some away, but yeah, we chowed down. I froze the rest.

I don't have any pictures from the Bluecrop picking but they were larger berries, generally, much sweeter than the Dukes and you had to work a bit harder to pick them. They don't ripen like the Dukes so there isn't the same grab handful after handful, stripping the bush type of picking, but more of a pick individual berries approach. Lots of green berries still on the bushes.

But they were totally worth it. Even when we end up with unwanted hitch hikers.

Japanese beetle-2
I'll put up with an occasional bug for organic berries!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Coconut M&M Cookies

Coconut M&M Cookies-on napkin

I've never hated coconut, but if you'd asked me if I liked it, I would have wrinkled my nose and said, "No, not really. It's mostly a texture thing." While that hasn't completely changed, I will say that I'm kind of in love with coconut, at least in the right form.

I made this German Chocolate Cake for Dwight's birthday and swooned. Dwight said it was the best GCC he's ever had. Aw, what a guy.

Toasted coconut is a new favorite, too. I learned the bliss that is toasted coconut when I made "7 layer bars" for the first time just a few months ago and couldn't stop eating the leftover toasty bits of pecans, graham crackers and coconut in the baking pan.

Then I made that coconut bread. You know the one. This one. Browned butter, vanilla bean, coconut. Did I mention browned butter? All together in one heavenly bread. Aw, yeah. The new-found joy of coconut continued.

And when I just had to make cookies because it had been too darn long since I'd made any, I decided to use, say it with me... coconut. I'd recently read about a chocolate chip cookie that uses browned butter and I knew I needed to try it. It worked so well with the bread, why not cookies. So I modified the basic Toll House recipe, browned the butter and added coconut M&Ms instead of chocolate chips along with coconut and vanilla bean.

coconut M&Ms package
*Contains no actual coconut. Heh. 

Coconut M&M Cookies-scoop
*Contains just the right amount of coconut. Mmmm.

Coconut M&M Cookies-size

Ding ding ding! We have another winner. The love affair continues...

Coconut M&M Cookies
loosely adapted from Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe

1 Cup (2 sticks) Butter, browned
1 vanilla bean, scraped reserving pod

2-3/4 Cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup coconut, packed

3/4 Cup brown sugar, packed
2/3 Cup granulated sugar
2 eggs

To make browned butter:
Place butter in small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Melt, stirring periodically. Once it's melted, continue stirring. The butter will get foamy - keep stirring. Once the foam goes away, you'll notice that it's gotten very clear with some solids at the bottom. Keep stirring! You don't want those to burn. You want the butter to start to turn a very light brown color and you'll definitely start noticing the amazing, nutty aroma. Let the solids at the bottom turn light brown then remove from heat. Let cool about 5 minutes, then drop the cleaned out vanilla pot into the butter. Do this too soon and you'll have fried vanilla bean — trust me — so wait the 5 minutes. The hot butter will draw the rest of the vanilla goodness from the scraped bean. 

Let this cool about 15-20 minutes in bowl of stand mixer or mixing bowl. Add vanilla beans.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk flour, soda, salt and cinnamon in medium bowl. Stir in coconut. Set aside.

Add both sugars to butter and mix until completely combined. It will be sludgy. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly between each and scrape down sides of bowl. Mixture should be noticeably lighter in color and texture.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture beating until full incorporated. You can mix in the M&Ms now or place them individually on the tops before baking.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. I used my large pampered chef scoop which is a scant 1/4 cup. You can make them any size you wish.

Place about 2 inches apart on sheet. (They will spread quite a bit.) Flatten and place M&Ms close together if adding them now.

Coconut M&M Cookies-candy placement

Bake 9-11 minutes until light golden brown. (My were perfect at exactly 10 minutes.) They'll spread then puff up then turn golden. Don't over bake. Leave on pan 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

You can eliminate the M&Ms altogether and just have a coconut cookie. They're excellent plain.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day Trip in Michigan, July 3

Dwight and I don't get away very often, so when we do–no matter what we do or where we go–it feels slightly indulgent and even a tiny bit exotic.

Like going to Michigan. That's exotic, right?


Well, it's not exotic, but it certainly is lovely. We live just south of the Indiana-Michigan border so leaving our state means only having to drive a mile north... and then we just keep going from there. On July 3 we hopped in the car with just the slightest idea of where were going and what we were doing and just decided to wing it.

We're wild and crazy like that.

We headed west on US 12 on our way to Three Oaks. It's a teeny tiny little town, but manages to draw quite a few tourists. They have a few cute restaurants, some really lovely galleries and shops as well as an honest to goodness old fashioned butcher shop that provided the meat for the hamburgers we ate at the Elm Street Bistro.

elm street bistro

It's a really cute town and I've only ever driven through it on the way to somewhere else. It was nice to stop and spend some time there.

From Three Oaks, we headed north to intersect with Red Arrow Highway which runs along the Lake Michigan coast. We passed the INSANELY long line to get into Warren Dunes (uh, no thanks. It had to have been a madhouse) and kept heading north along the coast to St. Joseph.

We found a parking spot just a little bit out of the way and made our way through town. St. Joe is larger than Three Oaks by quite a lot, but still has that same small town feel. There's an old five and dime type of drugstore (NOT a CVS or Walgreens) along with ice cream and chocolate shops, boutiques and galleries.

Silver Beach-vb nets

St. Joe is also home to Silver Beach, a lovely beach on Lake Michigan. Clean sandy beaches, lots of places to picnic and a crazy-awesome water park. No slides or pools but tons of water jets to splash around in.

Silver Beach-Waterpark

We weren't in "beach attire" so we stuck to the sidewalk at the edge of the beach.

D-Silver Beach
K-Silver Beach

We saw the lighthouse pier and headed in that direction. (You can see it off in the distance in that first beach photo.)

Silver Beach-lighthouse pier

We didn't realize that the lighthouse was actually on the other side of the river. So... we walked down the other pier running parallel to it. They flank the St. Joe river which feeds into the lake. Boats were going in and out the whole time.

Silver Beach-Sailboat-D

Tugboats (at least that's the style of this boat - I don't think it's *actually* a tug boat, but it's super cute)
Silver Beach-Lighthouse-Tugboat

And then there were the luxury boats. Oh, the life.
Silver Beach-boats

From there we decided to head back home with a stop at a winery. We went to a number of wineries just a few weeks prior for Father's Day (post to come) but didn't go to one that I really wanted to visit. Lemon Creek Winery has some really wonderful wines, all estate grown varietals with a long history of wine making and fruit growing. It's a fruit farm as well as a winery. Which brings us to our next unexpected adventure.

When we pulled up, there were lots of cars so we wondered what the heck was going on. Turns out they have U-Pick cherries—both sweet and sour—so we decided "What the heck. Let's pick some cherries."

cherry branch

It must have been one of the first days they opened because the fruit was loaded on the trees. The trees didn't look like they'd been touched, and that made for some quick and easy picking.

cherry branch-2


We went back to the farm stand to weigh and pay for our cherries, then headed into the packed tasting room to pick up the wine we originally stopped for. No need to taste, I knew exactly what I wanted: 6 bottles of their Compass Ros̩ Рa French-style dry ros̩ that is, to use the vernacular, da BOMB.

We completed the trip home by getting lost and I loved it. It seemed the perfect end to a wonderful day. I knew we were heading in the right directions—south and east—and we'd eventually hit something we knew. And we did. And it was great!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

We're experiencing technical difficulties-Updated

If you're wondering why you can't find me at it's because I accidentally let the URL lapse. They (GoDaddy) had an old email on file and I didn't realize the URL was going to expire July 1. So it did and now things are, as they say, jacked up.

I'm hoping to get the URL back, but in the mean time, all of my old links are gone into the cyber ether. The blog and all its content are still here, but it still sucks. I can't blame anyone but me, though, so here we are.

I hope you stick with me through this rough patch. I know the RSS feed (along with google search links) is now junk but I won't be able to let you know what it will be for at least another 24 hours.

Keep your fingers crossed that my mess up will be fixed!

So, yeah. I'm a total flake. I purchased my blog domain through Google Apps not GoDaddy. DUR. I did an email search around the time I purchased the domain and made that "discovery'. After lots and lots (LOTS) of looking and looking through all of the "help" areas on Google apps, I *think* I got it worked out. According to the order history, they said they sent me notifications to my current email. I definitely did not receive them (and it was the right email address), so not sure what's up that.  

BUT! I now have a receipt in my inbox that says I purchased another year. I can't get the URL to work yet, so I'm hoping it's just something that will take a little while to activate.

Keep on keeping those fingers crossed. 
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